Things Fall Apart: the books, podcasts and apps that helped me through a crisis

When Liadan Hynes' marriage fell apart she had to work on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart, she explores the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves, as well as the realities of life as a single parent in Ireland


I once interviewed a rather famous writer about a memoir she had written. It had been difficult to write; working on it had meant she had to go back over many challenging times in her life, which had understandably, caused her much angst.

It had in fact set off a bad spell of mental illness for her, and in the aftermath of the book being finished she was struggling, she said. In our conversation, I mentioned another memoir she might enjoy and she looked horrified. "Oh god no," she said. "All I want to read now are light, happy things."

Recently, I noticed she posted a picture of a stack of books she had read in the last year on Instagram, many of which were memoirs by women charting hard times in their own lives. And it made me think of the types of content, to use current parlance, that we need to consume at the different stages of our various recoveries.

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This woman, who is a kind of trailblazer of honesty, it seemed to me was now at a point where she was able to take on – and hopefully be helped – by the stories of others. At her rawest, it was, understandably, too much for her, and she needed other kinds of stories.

Below is a list of the content I found most helpful.

1. India Knight

Journalist and author India Knight’s books about Clara Hutt and her blended family, with some details based loosely on Knight’s own experiences, will make you feel comforted that life beyond the perfect nuclear family might actually be ok.

2. Deborah Levy’s The Cost of Living

I’ve read this several times. More successfully than any book I have come across, it captures the weirdly discombobulating, almost out of body feeling, of finding yourself having to put together a whole new life.

3. Inside Vogue, by Alexandra Shulman

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The former British Vogue editor’s diary of the 100th year of Vogue isn’t known as a help-you-through-divorce book, primarily because it isn’t really. She only mentions her divorce, which happened years before the time in which the book is set, in passing, and then it’s the aftermath and her own emotional turmoil which she describes. But that’s the point. Her divorce was clearly painful, but she’s long beyond that now, and there’s something refreshing about reading a book about a woman who went through a divorce who has put it so far behind her. At a time when you can offer yourself so little perspective, books like this help.

4. Frolo

Get on the Frolo app, a single parent location-based networking app. Also see their Instagram account for their weekly takeovers where a single parent runs the account’s stories for a day, and answers any questions you might have on how they do it.

5. Who needs a husband anyway?

Also on Instagram, follow @who.needs.a.husband.anyway – bio line reads “Sudden single mum to a four and five-year-old. Using Instagram as a diary and free therapy to help me work out how I feel about him leaving us," one of the loveliest, funniest accounts you could follow in these circumstances.

6. Alright for a Mum

Listen to Alright for a Mum, the brilliantly funny and honest podcast by single mothers Carrie-Anne (@mre.soeur) and Remi Sade (@remi.sade).

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Photo: Elice Moore on Unsplash


Read more: Why being a single parent means you don't need to worry about finding balance

Read more: Things Fall Apart: I watched Marriage Story so you don't have to

Read more: Let's talk about the words we use, and those we don't use when it comes to parenting

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